SLAC Today is available online at:
http://today.slac.stanford.edu

In this issue:
From the Director of Photon Science: Building for the Future of Photon Science
X-Rays Offer First Detailed Look at Hotspots for Calcium-related Disease
In the News:
Cosmic Blast Hints at Inner Magnetar
Word of the Week: Random

SLAC Today

Friday - November 5, 2010

From the Director of Photon Science: Building for the Future of Photon Science

(Photo - Keith Hodgson)

The Photon Science Directorate at SLAC continues to develop, with new science initiatives aligned with the Department of Energy and SLAC missions, and enabled by a growing and talented scientific workforce. Just in the past year, we have begun new efforts in materials and interfaces, led by Harold Hwang, and in catalysis, led by Jens Nørskov in the new Center for Sustainable Energy through Catalysis. Organizationally, these efforts fall within our Materials Sciences and Chemical Sciences Divisions, respectively. We are making plans for future expansion in additional areas, including the biosciences.

SLAC's senior management and scientific workforce have developed a vision and plan for further growing the science we do at SLAC in our Photon Science Directorate. The SLAC Agenda and Annual Lab Plan are aligned with and support these goals. Much of the growth will come in fields that are experimental and will require modern laboratory space. We benefit tremendously from laboratory space on the Stanford University campus, associated with our materials science programs and involving a number of campus-based faculty and students. However, as the Photon Science Directorate grows significantly over the coming decade, we must accommodate an increasing level of experimental science on the SLAC campus if we are to achieve our long-range goals. So what is the plan to do this in the near and longer term?  Read more...

X-Rays Offer First Detailed Look at Hotspots for Calcium-related Disease

(Photo)
High-resolution images of the ryanodine receptor, a protein associated with calcium-related disease, reveal in unprecedented detail the locations of more than 50 mutations that cluster in disease "hotspots" along the receptor. The grey portion of the above image represents low-resolution information about the entire receptor. The high-resolution structure is shown in blue, where each sphere represents a single atom. Mutations identified in individual amino acids are colored red. (Image courtesy of Filip Van Petegem/University of British Columbia.)

Calcium regulates many critical processes within the body, including muscle contraction, the heartbeat, and the release of hormones. But too much calcium can be a bad thing. In excess, it can lead to a host of diseases, such as severe muscle weakness, a fatal reaction to anesthesia or sudden cardiac death.

Now, using intense X-rays from the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, researchers have determined the detailed structure of a key part of the ryanodine receptor, a protein associated with calcium-related disease. Their results, which combine data from SSRL and the Canadian Light Source, pinpoint the locations of more than 50 mutations that cluster in disease "hotspots” along the receptor.  Read more...

In the News:
Cosmic Blast Hints at Inner Magnetar

New findings from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and NASA's Swift satellite give fresh insight into the source of mysterious and extraordinarily brilliant gamma-ray bursts in space. Results presented at the Gamma Ray Bursts 2010 Conference in Annapolis, Maryland, point to the formation of magnetars, highly magnetized and rapidly spinning neutron stars, at the heart of these bursts.  Read more in Nature News...

 (Photo by ICMA Photos under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.)

Word of the Week: Random

A truly random event can be neither controlled nor predicted. Given the same set of starting conditions, all possible outcomes have an equal chance of happening. Flip a coin, for example, and it is just as likely to land on "heads" as it is on "tails." The same goes for rolling an unbiased die.

A common misunderstanding about randomness is that the occurrence of one outcome boosts the chance of a different outcome happening next. But for random events, previous results have no influence on future ones. For example, if nine successive coin flips result in "heads," there is no reason to assume that the next flip should land on "tails." That final flip is independent of the previous nine. After a sufficiently large number of flips, it is likely that each outcome will appear about half the time, but there is no way to determine the order in which they happen.

This notion is important for applications such as information security. For example, most electronic data is encrypted with a 128-digit key, whose numbers are generated randomly. There are 1038 equally possible combinations, making it difficult for even the fastest computers to guess the correct order of the numbers and intercept the data.

Events

Access (see all)

Announcements
(see all | submit)

 Lab Announcements

Community Bulletin Board

Training (see all | register)

Lab Training

News (submit)

dividing line
(Office of Science/U.S. DOE Logo)

View online at http://today.slac.stanford.edu/.